UK Decision to Ban Families of Foreign Students to Affect Scotland’s Economy

The UK’s move to ban the families of many international students have been condemned as “self-destructive” in the light of figures that show overseas students contribute more than £4 billion to the Scottish economy.

While the boost is Scotland-wide, areas around the biggest universities benefit most – with North East Fife gaining a net impact of £154.1 million while Aberdeen South gains £111.2m, Dundee West gains £208.3m, Stirling gains £113.3m, Edinburgh South West gains £170.8, Edinburgh East gains £267.7m and South Edinburgh gains £103.5m.

Central Glasgow, where more than 3000 students are based, gains £292.4m – one of the highest sums in the UK.

However, fears have been expressed that overseas students will choose to study elsewhere after the UK ­Government announced that post-graduates on non-research courses would no longer be able to bring family ­members to the UK.

The announcement was made ahead of the latest immigration ­figures which show net migration to the UK has hit a record high.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said 606,000 more people had arrived than left the UK last year, with the figures including Ukrainian refugees and the Hong Kong resettlement scheme.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said banning the dependants of post-graduate non-research students would bring the figures down but the policy has been described as not only “self-destructive” but also “cruel” by NUS Scotland president Ellie Gomersall.

“If international students can no longer bring their families to the UK, many will not be able to come here to study,” she told the Sunday National. “This will disproportionately affect women, as they are more likely to bring their families when they study in the UK.”

The National: Ellie Gomersall
Ellie Gomersall
Gomersall added that the value of overseas students was not just economic.

“International students are valued members of the student community,” she said. “Their presence on ­campus and in the UK should not only be ­welcomed but encouraged. They ­enrich the educational experiences of all students and society at large.”

The crackdown has been ­condemned by the Scottish Government as “appalling”.

A spokesperson said it was important for Scotland to be able to attract and retain talented people to work and study without subjecting them to “excessive barriers”.

In total, the intake of international students in the 2021/22 academic year contributed £41.9bn to the UK economy, according to the new report by Universities UK.

On average, each of the 650 parliamentary constituencies in the UK is £58m (per constituency) better off because of international students – equivalent to approximately £560 per citizen. Even when accounting for dependants and other costs international students are a “huge” net contributor to the UK economy, the report states.

It found that economic benefits have risen from £31.3bn to £41.9bn between 2018/19 to 2021/22, an ­increase of 34%. The data also ­confirms that – even when accounting for the impact on public services ­(estimated at £4.4bn) – the ­economic benefits of hosting international ­students significantly outweigh the costs with a total net benefit of £37.4bn to the UK economy.

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, said overseas students enriched Scotland in ways that went beyond the economic boost.

“Ultimately, talent knows no ­borders,” said Sim. “We want to have the sharpest, most inquisitive minds learning, teaching and researching here in Scotland. That benefits not just their university but the nation and the world as a whole. International students need to know they are always welcome in Scotland.”

Overseas students who want to bring family with them need to ­provide documents proving their ­relationship to dependants, who then have to pay £490 for a visa.

They also have to pay the immigration health surcharge – an annual ­contribution towards NHS services of between £470 and £624.

Source: The National

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